February 2017
Howle's Hints

Opening Gates

“I am afraid that the schools will prove the very gates of hell, unless they diligently labor in explaining
the Holy Scriptures and engraving them in the heart of the youth.” ~ Martin Luther


Martin Luther was a powerful and controversial figure in the 16th century. His disagreements with the Catholic Church resulted in the Protestant Reformation. He felt strongly that the gospel should be made available to all people and not just select church authorities. His beliefs caused him to translate the Bible from Hebrew and ancient Greek into his native German to make the text more accessible to the common man.

Ironically, today we have a tremendous amount of translations of the Bible in every language and in various English forms; it’s even available on apps and in every media form. However, the information contained therein is rarely shared in classrooms across the nation at a time when young people need it most. If you have young adults in your life or in your sphere of influence, a great prescription for direction in life can be found in the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is the best way to open the gates of wisdom not only for young people but any person.


Measure diagonals on both sides and adjust the gate until you get the same measurements.


Home-Style Gate Can be Strong and Save Money

Sometimes, you have an opening that needs a gate, and there isn’t a factory-made gate in the size you need. If that’s the case, you might find that a homemade gate works just as well and might even be stronger. If you have some saw-milled, white oak lumber, the gate can be made strong and will last for years.


1) 1 x 6 white oak lumber for all wooden parts of the gate including the bracing

2) Drill and 1/8-inch bit for drilling pilot holes into the planks for driving nails (white oak is hard and will bend nails if the wood is cured)

3) Three strap hinges, gate bolts and hardware for attaching strap hinges to gate planks and plenty of 16d nails

We had a cow go nuts inside our catch pen that joins a small log barn my great-grandfather built. During her rampage, she jumped onto the old gate and squashed the tubular steel making the old gate useless. This new gate had to cover a width of 86 inches to go from post to post at the entrance of the barn.


Bend the protruding nails over across the grain for extra strength.


Start the Construction

If you have a flat area such as a shop floor, layout of the gate planks is easier. First, lay out the two vertical side planks of the gate. We cut them to a length of 70 inches because we wanted the gate to be tall enough to discourage any cow from jumping it.

Next, space the cross planks of the gate evenly down the side braces to determine just how many cross planks you will need. Once you have laid out the cross planks across the end planks, attach each of the four corners with a 16d nail once you have the frame of the gate roughly in place.

At this point, determine if the gate is square. Take diagonal measurements on each side and adjust the frame until both diagonal measurements are the same. This will ensure the frame of the gate is square. Once the cross planks are evenly spaced apart and the frame is squared in, begin to drill pilot holes into the ends of each of the vertical side planks. Nail the 16d nails through the cross planks into the side vertical planks. We put five 16d nails into each end plank section. Once all the planks are attached, flip the gate over and bend the nails over across the grain of the wood.


Build the Bracing

One of the most important steps in building a gate is the bracing, which prevents the gate from sagging over time. When you see that X-shaped wood on the outside of a gate, it’s not just for looks. The full-length plank running from the upper section on the hinge side of the gate to the lower gate section is attached to each plank it contacts with 16d nails. This downward, diagonal plank supports the entire gate and keeps the gate from sagging on the end opposite to the hinges.


The completed gate turning on its hinges.

The second diagonal plank will be in two pieces. One piece goes above the first diagonal brace and the second piece goes below the diagonal brace making an X brace. Drill pilot holes and drive 16d nails through the X braces. Flip the gate to bend the nails over.


Attaching the Gate

Once the construction of the gate is complete, attach the three strap hinges to three side planks with bolts, washers and nuts. Set the gate on blocks or rocks and mark the three spots where the hinge bolts will be attached to the gate post. The top and bottom hinge bolts should have the shanks facing up. The middle hinge bolt should be facing down so an animal can’t lift the gate off the hinge bolts.

For the final touches, you will need a length of chain to allow you to open and close the gate quickly and effortlessly. The white oak lumber is strong and will last for years. If you want to add a layer of protection to the wood, red or black paint can add a nice touch – especially if the gate will be out in the weather.


John Howle is a freelance writer from Heflin.